Not long ago, one may have been hard pressed to identify conservative evangelical congregations and faith leaders who embraced comprehensive immigration reform. Today, times are changing. As a new generation of conservative evangelicals makes their presence known, immigration reform has increasingly become a rallying point in support of political action.
By DERRICK LYNCH
Special to The Star
I first witnessed this two years ago when the Southern Baptist Convention convened for its annual meeting in Phoenix. A resolution on a gospel response to immigration reform was placed before the delegates. The resolution called for secure borders and a just and compassionate path to legal status for those already in our country. The resolution passed after discussion that was as lively as any I have witnessed in recent memory. While the debate may have served as a harbinger of obstacles to come, the passage of the resolution was evidence that evangelical leaders in America have reached a tipping point in favor of common sense immigration reform.
The convention debate involving comprehensive reform showed how challenging it can be for conservatives to think biblically about immigration reform. We pride ourselves in our conviction that the Bible must guide not only our political leanings but also more broadly our morality and ethics as well. But many leading conservative congregations seem oblivious to the copious amount of biblical literature that calls for compassion on behalf of immigrants.
For example, in Exodus 22:21, God unequivocally states, You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah 7:6, the prophet proclaims that Israels blessing was tied, in part, to her treatment of the sojourner.
In the New Testament, we find immigration woven into the written word of the early life of Christ. Fearing for their childs safety, Joseph and Mary fled Bethlehem for Egypt to escape the reach of the despotic and murderous ruler, Herod. Much like the Jewish people from whom he came, Jesus himself was a refugee and immigrant.
Faced with the overwhelming biblical support for the compassionate treatment of immigrants, some conservatives have attempted to justify hostility toward immigration reform by making a distinction between those who are legal immigrants and those who are within our borders illegally. While the Bible establishes the right of governments to exact justice from lawbreakers, it also clearly demands that justice be dispensed rightly.
This requires that current immigration law be evaluated through the lens of biblical demand, and most importantly, fairness for the treatment of the sojourner among us. Thus, the Bible guides Christians to assess whether current immigration law treats undocumented immigrants fairly.
Thankfully, the tide is turning among conservatives as they re-examine immigration within the context of the Bibles compassionate teachings. Evangelicals have found areas of common ground, rooted within their faith and historic precedent, to join organizations such as the Evangelical Immigration Table in support of a bipartisan solution that respects the God-given dignity of every person, guarantees secure national borders and establishes a path toward citizenship for those who qualify and wish to become full-fledged members of American society.
I join with like-minded conservative evangelicals in praying for more supporters of comprehensive reform to join our growing ranks.
Derrick Lynch of Olathe is the senior pastor of Blue Valley Baptist Church in Overland Park.